Tag Archive: Valentine’s Day


“Maisie, I think something’s burning – could you check the stove?”

“Sure thing.” I motioned to Birungi, hoping she would turn back around and pay attention to the decorations she was trying to hang, instead of craning her neck to look back over her shoulder into the domi’s kitchen and making the stepladder teeter under her. I could have told her her shiitake stroganoff was at risk a couple of minutes ago – just because I don’t smell the way a human does, doesn’t mean I switch off my olfactory sensors altogether when I’m not at work – but Bee was frazzled enough as it was, and I’d figured we had a few minutes before things went critical.

“Thanks, honey, you’re a lifesaver.”

“I’ll add it to my bill.” Chuckling softly, I switched off my vac-finger and hurried over to turn down the heat under the pan, cranking up the heat sink a notch just to be on the safe side.

“Is this even, do you think?”

Birungi was holding a mass of what looked like pink lace up to one corner of the large viewer in the living room. The viewer was set to its default, the view outside the domi; it had been a beautiful Martian afternoon, but even though the sky would still be bright for a while, the evening dust devils were starting their wander through Bradbury.

“It looks fine to me, though you might want to adjust the color filter on the viewer – unless you see both those pinks as the same?”

Birungi leaned over for a look. “Oh, damn. You’re right.”

She stuck the lace to the wall, where it dangled amid the hearts and what I’d been told were “cupids” that festooned the domi. I spotted an eddy of dust in a corner of the kitchen, and reactivated my vac to take care of it while Bee fiddled with the viewer settings.

“Oh, thanks, Maisie – damn the dust.”

Damn the dust was a form of verbal punctuation among human and android colonists alike. Almost 75 percent of the first human generation on Mars had succumbed to lung diseases no one had ever seen before, before the colonists realized exactly what they were up against. Androids – like me – were part of the solution; we didn’t need to breathe, so we were better suited for outdoor work. And the humans’ domis were made as airtight as they could possibly be… but even the best airlocks couldn’t keep up with the damned dust entirely.

“No problem – say, did you get the ‘lock fixed?”

“Not like I could just let that go!” Birungi laughed. “Maintenance was by this morning. Does this look better?”

“That’s much better.” The sky was actually still at least half a nanometer to the cool, but I was fairly sure humans couldn’t see that, and Bee’s intended dinner guest was definitely human.

Birungi set down the remote and turned on her heel, looking around the room. “What do you think, Maisie? Good?”

I followed her gaze around the room – lace, cupids, hearts and all. “You know human holidays aren’t my thing, but I think it’s very pretty.” I wasn’t lying – when it came to aesthetic judgments, I was more than happy to let my programming supply a “normal human” response as if it were my own.

“I wonder why people stopped celebrating Valentine’s Day.” Birungi folded up the stepladder and tucked it back into its niche next to the airlock door. “It’s not like people stopped loving each other, you know?”

I shrugged. If human holidays were outside my wheelhouse, human religious crusades were on another planet entirely, and I wasn’t about to pronounce on a crusade that had ended a hundred years before my component metals were synthesized. “I don’t know, but I think you’ve hit on the perfect theme for a romantic dinner. What time is Donal supposed to get here?”

“He said he’d be here at 1700 – oh, and here it is almost 1650!”

I couldn’t help smiling at Birungi’s sudden alarm, the way she started tugging at her clothes, smoothing her springy foam of black curls that wouldn’t be smoothed by anything short of a clothes press. “You look wonderful, and he’s going to fall for you like Phobos fell for the carbon miners.”

“You think so?” Birungi’s hands didn’t settle much, but she smiled.

“I know so. Trust me, androids have a sixth sense about these things.” It helped to be able to smell pheromones with a sensitivity well beyond the human olfactory range, of course. Donal didn’t stand a chance. “And I think I’ll leave you to it, unless you have anything else you need help with?”

“Oh, no – thank you so much, Maisie, I don’t know what I would have done without you!”

I waited until I heard the doorvac sucking the dust-laden air out of the ‘lock before setting out for the edge of Bradbury, just to be sure Maintenance had down their job properly. Once I saw dust spilling out of the catch, though, I turned and sprinted for the garage. I had an errand to run, and this afternoon was the perfect time for it.

I could have run all the way out to the edge of the canyon, of course. I’m built for it. But as my human friends are fond of saying, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Even an android has to worry about dust in her joints, and buggybubbles keep the worst of it out, even in a sandstorm.

I had a map – a handheld antiquity so old it was a 3-D transcription of an actual 2-D, but the landmarks I’d been able to verify all checked out. I juggled to keep it upright with one hand and steered the bubble with the other, as mostly flat land gave way to scattered boulders, and gradually to dunes.

When I’d been assembled, the dunes had been well to the west of Bradbury, but the bow wave has crept closer over the years. Another century or so and we might have to abandon the colony, at least for a while.

But if I was lucky, the bow wave had passed what I was looking for.

When the map told me I was close – “told me” the old-fashioned way, I had to look at it – I shut it off and sensored it the rest of the way. I thought I recognized a boulder halfway to the horizon; the survey photos gave it an odd shape, like the snapped-off blade of a wind-turbine, only with an ear, or maybe a nose. And what I was looking for was probably somewhere on its leeward side.

Finally, I switched off the bubble and went on foot. There was some dust – though surely I was imagining that I heard my servos cursing as I slogged through it – and as I got closer, there were times when a footstep actually crunched on bare rock.

Suddenly inspired, I switched on my metals sensor. I usually used it for iron mining, but a few tweaks set it hunting for titanium and aluminum, metals not normally detectable on the Martian surface.

Bingo.

Whatever that meant.

Now that I knew what to look for, I could see flat surfaces that had to be dust-coated solar panels, and a stalk with a rectangular growth at the top, set with circles. Lenses.

I worked quickly – I was losing the light – but I had to be careful as well as quick, and by the time I’d uncovered the relic, it was nearly dark. I had to switch on my forehead lamp for the last bit, reversing my vac-finger to blow dust out of crevices that probably hadn’t seen any kind of light in hundreds of years.
And when my light hit one of the solar panels, and I heard a faint, grinding whir…

…and when the lenses finally tilted down to look at me…

Don’t let anyone tell you MA-Cs don’t have feelings.

“Hello, Granddad,” I choked.

And as I’d planned, I started to sing.

“Happy birthday to you…”

twobears2

As usual, I’m running just a little bit behind the calendar… just finished Chapter 22 of UNDERTOW (SoulShares #7), and this excerpt (part of a flashback/dream sequence involving Lucien de Winter, Purgatory’s lead bouncer) is just perfect for Valentine’s Day. So here’s to the love that’s more than just a day, more than just the heat…

********

“Mrmph.”

Lucien chuckled as he slid into bed beside Mac. Mac’s shift at Purgatory had been over a couple of hours before Lucien’s, and Mac wasn’t a big one for waking up out of a sound sleep just because someone else was joining him in bed. Truth was, Mac slept like the proverbial rock. But Lucien loved the sounds his partner made when he tried to wake up enough to welcome him home.

“Mrmph to you too.” He worked his way into Mac’s half-awake embrace, relaxing as he breathed in the familiar scent of the oil Mac used on his stump at night. And all the other familiar scents of Mac.

Lucien had been on edge ever since he’d had to help Tiernan and Kevin get rid of the vicious drunk at the end of the bar, earlier tonight – his radar had fucked up big time, that sixth sense that always told him when something was threatening Mac. He’d never let so much as an undercover cop into Purgatory; the fact that the weasel in the leather shorts had made it past him thoroughly pissed him off.

But all the pissed-off could just go piss off, now. There were arms around him and legs were tangling and Mac was making his sweet sleepy noises. Lucien was home.

“Wha’ time is it?”

Lucien felt the breath of Mac’s words against his shoulder.

“Couple of minutes after four. Go back to sleep.” Lucien cupped the back of Mac’s head in his hand. The short hair tickled his palm.

“Maybe I don’t want to.” An arm snaked around Lucien’s waist.

Lucien found Mac’s stubble-rough cheek with a kiss. More than one. Because once he got started, frankly, he couldn’t think of any reason to stop.

He felt Mac’s chuckle, deep down where their bellies were pressed together. And just for a second, he honest to God couldn’t tell whether it was Mac laughing, or himself. He grinned as the last of his tension drained away, and then went back to slow, searching kisses. This was one of the best times, the perfect times. He couldn’t tell where he ended and Mac started. He didn’t care.

Lucien could still remember a time when he’d believed what he’d been told, that men like him never got to have anything like this. Believed that queers like him only pretended to love. Or that love had to be wrapped up in tragedy – that any love story he could imagine himself being a part of would end with someone dying, or going crazy. He’d been young when he met Mac, barely twenty, but those stories had still managed to work their way into him, bone-deep.

But the stories were lies. Lucien knew that now.

Mac’s big hand slid up and down Lucien’s back; a finger traced lazy spirals in what the mirror at the gym told Lucien was a dark pelt scattered with white, then slid down between his ass cheeks. Not demanding anything. Mac, Lucien knew, was just enjoying what was his.

“Love you, Fuzzball,” Mac mumbled. A sleepy kiss brushed the short curls on Lucien’s shoulder.

“Love you more.”